Six months ago I moved in with my boyfriend. It has been a fascinating six months. I have never lived with a partner before so everything is new to me, both the good stuff and the not so good stuff (for the record, the balance is definitely in favour of the good stuff).
Living with a partner for the first time is a massive learning curve. It isn’t like living with your parents and it isn’t like living with flatmates (both of which I have done). With both parents and flatmates, the onus isn’t really on you to make a big effort. Your parents are usually the ones who drive everything. With flatmates, you’re all generally doing your own thing and you just come together whenever you come together. With both parents and flatmates you can always retreat to your room with minimal questions asked. A boyfriend or a girlfriend is a different story.
If there is one thing that I have learnt the truth of in the past year it is that relationships are WORK. They are wonderful and brilliant and absolutely worth it – but they are still work. And the kind of work that you are expected to put in changes so much when you live together. You see, before you live together everything is more or less sunshine and roses in a lot of ways. Because you don’t see each other all the time, you are excited for when you do see each other. More effort is put into the days when you are together. As for the days when you are stressed out and tired and just want to be alone and go to bed, well, you can just retreat into your own space and just see your partner tomorrow when you feel able to put in more of an effort.
Living together changes that. Now you see each other all the time, so the high of seeing each other wears off and it just isn’t possible to put in the same amount of effort every single day. Now you see each other stressed out, tired, moody, sad – you both come home to a person who has had a long and possibly frustrating day and who expects you to spend time with them. Things get real fast. Your partner is suddenly part of your ordinary days instead of being saved up for your special ones. And that can be wonderful. It can be really and truly wonderful – but it is one hell of a mind-boggling adjustment.
The main thing that I have noticed about living with a partner is that a fight is just so, so easy. You both come home reeling with the emotions of the day and it is the easiest thing in the world to morph into the worst version of yourself and take it all out on your partner. Living together – actually, just being in a relationship in general but even more so when you live together – requires a lot of compromise, a lot of biting your tongue, a lot of patience and a lot of perspective. You need to be able to apologize (even if you still think you’re partner is wrong, you need to accept your part in the problem) and you need to be able to stop and recognize when something isn’t worth fighting over – which is most of time. You need to start seeing romance in different ways. Your partner isn’t a terrible person if they don’t bring you flowers every day – appreciate the fact that they cleaned up the kitchen after you made dinner or that they poured you a glass of wine after a long day. The big, take your breath away special moments do still happen – they just don’t happen every time you see each other anymore because you are always seeing each other. You have to learn to live in the ordinary with the person who has made your world extraordinary.
I love living with my boyfriend, as big of an adjustment as it has been. I feel so lucky that the first person I see everyday is my favourite person. I look forward to being able to tell him about my day, and hear about his, in person instead of via text. It has been great but I am 100% still learning. It is a big step living with someone – a partner someone – for the first time. My advice? Have an open mind, be ready for things not to be perfect all the time (in other words, be realistic) and work on maintaining perspective (a bad day doesn’t mean it’s a bad relationship, not every fight is worth it, extraordinary days do follow the ordinary ones etc.). Most importantly, try hard. In my mind, if you try really hard, then you have a shot at something good.